Speculation is swirling that the Guptas’ biggest asset in the ICT sector, Sahara Computers, is either up for sale or could even soon be closed down.
Several industry sources, who say they have knowledge of the situation, have told TechCentral in recent days that Sahara, which the Guptas established in 1994, is retrenching staff, though various company executives have repeatedly stone-walled efforts by this publication to solicit comment.
The talk about Sahara comes amid the sale of other assets owned by the Guptas, including Infinity Media (parent of news channel ANN7) and TNA Media (publisher of The New Age) for a combined R450m to controversial former government spokesman Mzwanele Manyi in a “vendor financing” arrangement (in other words, the deal is being funded by the Guptas).
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Gupta investment vehicle Oakbay said it is selling its stake in Tegeta Exploration and Resources to little-known Swiss company Charles King for R3bn.
Separate industry sources in the technology distribution channel have told TechCentral that Sahara plans to retrench staff. They believe an announcement about Sahara’s future could come as soon as this week.
TNA Media spokesman Gary Naidoo referred TechCentral to Sahara director Stephan Nel, who in turn requested that questions be e-mailed to Oakbay. Oakbay failed to respond to a detailed set of questions, including about possible retrenchments, the future of Sahara and whether the Guptas are seeking a buyer, as they did for their media assets and for Tegeta.
For a second time in as many days, Nel on Wednesday morning referred TechCentral to Oakbay. An Oakbay employee, reached on Wednesday by telephone, referred TechCentral back to Naidoo and Nel. The employee was unable to say who at Oakbay could deal with media queries.
Several attempts to reach Sahara co-founder Atul Gupta on his mobile phone proved unsuccessful.
Sahara Computers was one of the first companies established by the Gupta family when it immigrated to South Africa in the early 1990s. It is a specialist IT distributor, and claims on its website that it serves over 6 000 channel partners with a range of international technology products from companies such as Sandisk, HP, Lexmark and Sony.
The Who’s Who website lists Gupta brothers Atul, Ajay and Rajesh as the company’s co-founders, and includes President Jacob Zuma’s son, Duduzane Zuma, in the leadership team. — (c) 2017 NewsCentral Media